The Fifth World


Hunting and Gathering

For the vast majority of human history, people subsisted off the land through hunting and gathering. Rather than cultivating crops, they hunted, fished, picked berries and nuts, and dug up naturally-growing tubers for their meals. The collapse returned people to this subsistence strategy. 

All families in the Fifth World hunt and gather some to most of their food. This necessitates a nomadic lifestyle ranging over a broad territory. Like real hunter-gatherer societies observed by anthropologists, Fifth World hunter-gatherers live in peaceful, egalitarian social structures. Because they do not store or preserve food, they share everything they gather equally, thereby "storing" the food in each other so their family members can one day return the favor.

Attitudes Toward Hunting

Hunter-gatherers don't consider hunting a violent act, but a sacred, willing sacrifice on the animal's part. Barry Lopez coined the term "the conversation of death" to refer to the apparent communication between wolves and prey animals regarding whom to kill and whom to leave alone. Human hunters also participate in this conversation, and honor the animal that gave up its life to feed them.

Animist hunter-gatherer societies will have one of two metaphors for hunting: hunting as gift or hunting as seduction. In the former case, they view the land as akin to a parent, taking care of her children by sending them the meat they need to survive. In the latter, they view the animals they hunt as akin to lovers they must seduce to come to them.

Role of Insects

While most people today think of hunter-gatherers primarily as big game hunters, the Fifth World has far fewer large mammals. Due to climate change, warm-blooded mammals have gotten smaller while cold-blooded animals (insects especially) have gotten much larger. Large insects constitute a greater proportion of a Fifth Worlder's diet than you might expect. 

Insects also produce honey, which all families treasure. People can't find sweet things very easily, so they value honey more highly than meat. Because bees have gotten bigger, so have their hives. Gathering honey requires bravely looting hives as big as houses, and building smoky bonfires to calm cat-sized bees. Some bees build hives near meadows of hallucinogenic flowers, which makes their honey hallucinogenic as well. People gather this honey for use in religious ceremonies.